Thursday, October 19, 2017

John Kelly is an ass

The face of White House arrogance

NPR says John Kelly leant his moral authority to Trump by speaking out against Rep. Frederica Wilson.  No, Kelly provided no moral gravitas; what he provided was moral arrogance.  He proved why he works for a man like Donald Trump, and why Kelly is as beneath contempt as his boss is.

Kelly established that he was the source both of the story about Obama not calling when his son was killed in action, a story Kelly said he told Trump without criticism of Obama, and the story about "they signed up for this."   Trump, of course, immediately turned the Obama story into an insult.  When Kelly offered that he was the source of Trump's comment that Sgt. Johnson "knew what he signed up for", he abandoned all moral authority he might ever have claimed.

But let's start with Kelly being stunned by Rep. Wilson's comments:

“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing,” Kelly at a White House press briefing. “A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife — and in his way tried to express that opinion that he’s a brave man, a fallen hero.”

It was on a speaker phone; she wasn't eavesdropping on the extension.  My guess is the widow pushed the button so everyone would know why she was crying.  As for the sanctity of the matter, that horse left that barn months ago, and the barn has long since burned down, and not because of an otherwise unknown representative with a fondness for cowboy hats.  No, the fault lies in the President, who is do disrespectful he says things everyone now agrees he said.  Such words lose any right to the "sacred" you may wish to impose on them just because of the office-holder that said them.  Insults do not deserve to remain private when a President speaks them in his capacity as President.  And Rep. Wilson was reporting on what had upset the grieving family of a fallen soldier.  She wasn't violating a confidence; she was doing a service for a constituent.  She was speaking their truth to power for them.

Kelly told the press that his best friend and former "casualty officer" advised Kelly that men like his son died knowing they had signed up for that risk, and surrounded by their friends, the best people on earth.  Good advice to a commanding officer bearing the burden of sending men to die, perhaps; terrible advice for the family of a fallen military member.  Worse than terrible advise when fed to the sewer that is the personality of Donald Trump.  It is moral arrogance to argue, as Kelly did, that what Trump said (which has now been confirmed by two White House officials on the record.  How many more staffers are going to call Trump a liar?  Trump never said he was misunderstood; he said he didn't say what Wilson said he did.  It is now beyond cavil that was a lie.) should have been understood by the widow and the mother and even Rep. Wilson the way Kelly understood it, or even the way Kelly intended it when he passed it on to Trump.

The man was actually lecturing the mother and wife, again, as Kellyanne Conway did, without ever mentioning them.  He did it by very carefully excluding any mention of the family from his remarks, but they are as much a source of this information as the Representative is.  Had he mentioned them, his entire argument would had dissolved before his eyes.  He knew what he wasn't mentioning, and he knew why.  This entire White House is a cess pool and a moral black hole.  George W. Bush looks like a paragon of virtue by comparison to these people, and Barack Obama comes off as a candidate for immediate beatification.

This is almost beyond belief.  There is no moral authority left in that building, and it isn't just because Trump is poison, as Josh Marshall keeps saying.  The staff are agents in their own right, and moral actors responsible for their own actions.  They cannot say Trump made them do it.  They are complicit on their own.  Kelly stood there and, while tacitly taking credit for everything Trump said that Trump explicitly said he didn't say, also agreed with Trump that this is personal, and it's all about Trump and what Trump said and how everyone should give Trump "the benefit of the doubt."  Yes, he used those words.  Josh Marshall says:  "President Trump is a blowhard and a phony and a liar. Kelly isn’t."  He is now.

This entire Administration is morally repellant and bankrupt.*

*and to comments like this that are apparently being bandied about because cable news, they have to fill the hours:

Toobin made his comments in response to claims by CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins that it’s possible there was a breakdown in communication and interpretation between the Johnson widow and the president.

I call bullshit.

I have counseled grieving families over sudden deaths, and over deaths after long and lingering illnesses, and never once did I say:  "Well, you knew it was going to end like this sooner or later!"  Saying that is not a "breakdown in communication" or "interpretation," it is grotesque beyond measure.  And Kelly's argument is simply a variant on "blame the victim."  (Trump was "misunderstood.")  I know people want to make some sense of this nonsense, but even Toobin's frustration (“What country has controversy over condolence calls?” Toobin implored. “It’s an example of what a surreal moment we are in.”) is not an example of an errant zeitgeist, it is entirely the fault of one man and it is to be laid at the feet of this thoroughly incompetent human being who shouldn't be among civilized beings without a handler with a leash and a muzzle.

There is no excuse for what Trump said, and no controversy any more that he said it.  You don't get to blame the family because the would-be comforter was so abominably inept and so completely lacking in human feelings.  This planet is the one that allowed such a cretin to be in such a position of power, and to surround himself with people willing to serve him.  That we always thought this was impossible is our problem; that we allowed it to happen is our problem, too.


  1. Kelly's remarks were shocking. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. By criticizing Rep Wilson, who is a friend of the Johnson family, Kelly implied criticism of the grieving family. It was disgusting. I've lost the last shred of respect I had for the general.

    Trump should never again call a grieving family member. Just have a literate staff member write a letter of condolence for Trump to sign with his goofy, spiky, huge signature.

  2. he's a disgrace to his uniform.